EXACTLY sixty years ago, on Saturday the 1st May 1954, West Bromwich Albion beat Preston North End 3-2 to win the FA Cup for the fourth time in the club's history.
This was the 73rd final and Albion's ninth appearance in the final, having won the trophy on three previous occasions, in 1888 (v. Preston), 1892 (v. Aston Villa) and 1931 (v. Birmingham) while Preston had won the competition twice and were competing in the final for the sixth time.
Albion had won through to Wembley in 1954 by beating Chelsea (1-0, courtesy of Ron Greenwood's own-goal), Rotherham United (4-0, with a brace from Johnny Nicholls), Newcastle United (3-2 with a Ronnie Allen hat-trick), Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 (which included a stunning free-kick by Ray Barlow) and Port Vale 2-1 (Allen striking the winner from the penalty spot against his former club).
A month before the final Albion had been on course for the League and Cup double, but in the end it was their Black Country neighbours Wolves who clinched the First Division championship, finishing four points above the Baggies (57-53).
A crowd of 99,852 attended the final, and after a fairly even first 20 minutes, Albion took the lead when George Lee charged down a clearance, raced forward and squared the ball for Allen to slot home from six yards. Preston, with England winger Tom Finney in their line-up, hit back immediately when Angus Morrison jumped highest to plant a header past Jim Sanders for the equaliser.
Albion, who had two good chances to regain the lead, then fell behind in the 51st minute when Preston's centre-forward Charlie Wayman, looking at least two yards offside, strode forward unchallenged, rounded Sanders and tapped home from close range.
This only acted as a spur to the Baggies and after Nicholls had gone close, Barlow, surging into the penalty-area, was clattered into by Tommy Docherty. 'Penalty' said referee Arthur Luty and up stepped Allen to score from the spot.
It was now all Albion and although Wayman and Finney both had opportunities to win the game for Preston, it was Baggies' winger Frank Griffin who became the hero of the hour. With three minutes remaining, Joe Kennedy and Reg Ryan linked after a Preston attack had broken down. The ball was played forward to Griffin, who nodded it past Joe Walton, and cut into the 18-yard box before driving a low shot under the body of goalkeeper George Thompson. It was a dramatic goal – and a memorable one for the Baggies.
Albion's joyous captain Len Millard was duly presented with the silver trophy by HRH the Queen mother and it brought the curtain down on quite a terrific season for the Black Country, following Wolves' success in the Football League.
This was Albion's winning team of 60 years ago under manager Vic Buckingham and trainer Arthur Fitton: Jim Sanders; Joe Kennedy, Len Millard; Jimmy Dudley, Jimmy Dugdale, Ray Barlow; Frank Griffin, Reg Ryan, Ronnie Allen, Johnny Nicholls and George Lee. Sadly, not one of these stars in stripes is alive today.
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